what is stem/steam EDucation?
STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics, With STEAM teaching you add 'ART' to the disciplines — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.
Though the United States has historically been a leader in these fields, fewer students have been focusing on these topics recently. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven a proficiency in mathematics. Currently, nearly 28 percent of high school freshmen declare an interest in a STEM-related field, a department website says, but 57 percent of these students will lose interest by the time they graduate from high school.
As a result, the Obama administration announced in 2009 "Educate to Innovate" campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in STEM subjects. This campaign addressed the inadequate number of teachers skilled to educate in these subjects. The goal was to get American students from the middle of the pack in science and math to the top of the pack in the international arena.
Thirteen agencies partnered in the Committee on Stem Education (CoSTEM), including mission science agencies and the U.S. Department of Education. CoSTEM is working to create a joint national strategy to invest federal funds in K-12 STEM education, increasing public and youth STEM engagement, improving the STEM experience for undergraduates, reaching demographics underrepresented in STEM fields, and designing better graduate education for the STEM workforce. The Department of Education now offers a number of STEM-based programs, including research programs with a STEM emphasis, STEM grant selection programs and general programs that support STEM education.
The Obama administration's 2014 budget invested $3.1 billion in federal programs on STEM education, with an increase of 6.7 percent in 2012. The investments were made to recruit and support STEM teachers, as well as support STEM-focused high schools with STEM Innovation Networks. The budget also invested in advanced research projects for education, to better understand next-generation learning technologies.
The importance of STEM education
All of this effort was to meet a need. According to a report by the website STEMconnector.org, by 2018, projections estimate the need for 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs. The manufacturing sector faces an alarmingly large shortage of employees with the necessary skills — nearly 600,000. The field of cloud computing alone will have created 1.7 million jobs between 2011 and 2015, according to the report. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2018, the bulk of STEM careers will be:
Computing – 71 percent
Traditional Engineering – 16 percent
Physical sciences – 7 percent
Life sciences – 4 percent
Mathematics – 2 percent
STEM jobs do not all require higher education or even a college degree. Less than half of entry-level STEM jobs require a bachelor's degree or higher. However, a four-year degree is incredibly helpful with salary — the average advertised starting salary for entry-level STEM jobs with a bachelor's requirement was 26 percent higher than jobs in the non-STEM fields, according to the STEMconnect report. For every job posting for a bachelor's degree recipient in a non-STEM field, there were 2.5 entry-level job postings for a bachelor's degree recipient in a STEM field.
This is not a problem unique to the United States. In the United Kingdom, the Royal Academy of Engineering reports that the Brits will have to graduate 100,000 STEM majors every year until 2020 just to meet demand. According to the report, Germany has a shortage of 210,000 workers in the mathematics, computer science, natural science and technology disciplines.